Scripps Howard News Service, July 28, 2003
By DAVID YOUNT
– If Sunday sermons fall short of making you more knowledgeable about your religious faith (or other faiths), your home computer is poised to be your best friend. The very best of the international religious Web sites don’t just preach to the choir. They instruct and inspire. So, enjoy!
Lavinia Byrne, who writes for The Tablet, a Catholic weekly published in England, recently surveyed the best Web sites. She awards four stars to www.bbc.co.uk/religion, produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation’s religion department. The site offers an array of articles on contemporary moral questions, including genetic engineering and human cloning. It even offers perspective on atheism. Another BBC site, www.bbc.co.uk/dna/360, is interactive and treats spirituality.
Islam Online (www.islamonline.net) is also a four-star site. It provides a comprehensive explanation of what it means to be a Muslim, including news stories, social and cultural links, plus health advice and entertainment. It even employs Muslim scholars to offer online advice, not unlike “Dear Abby.” Check out the counsel given to a woman who was uncertain whether to reveal her sexual history to her husband before converting to Islam.
Thousands of resources are available to explain Hindu traditions and rituals at www.hindu.org. Its many links can be slow to download, but they are extensive, treating yoga, philosophy and discussions of dilemmas faced by Hindus in the 21st century.
Billing itself as “the number one destination for all things Jewish and more” is the British site www.jewish.co.uk. It includes a dating agency, a kosher cookery feature and the charming diary of a “mohel,” the man who performs circumcisions. There is an “Ask the Rabbi” section, which treats serious questions of faith and religious practice, but also delivers wry reactions to subjects like the Harry Potter craze.
If you’re interested in religion in general, you’ll be intrigued by www.adherents.com, which provides over 41,000 statistics and religious geography citations. It has no denominational axes to grind, nor does it attempt to score moral or spiritual points. If the subject of religion has become ho-hum of late, check out the Falun Gong, the Radical Faeries and other imaginative sects and cults on this site.
For simple fun, visit the Christian site www.ship-of-fools.com, which bills itself as The Magazine of Christian Unrest. Its Monty Python-like irreverence includes a consumer guide to tacky religious artifacts. Its “reality” game show, modeled on TV’s “Survivor,” votes members of the crew off Noah’s Ark.
(A collection of David Yount’s early columns, “Faith Under Fire” (SterlingHouse), will be published in October. Contact him at P.O. Box 2758, Woodbridge, VA 22193 or dyount(at)erols.com.)